In light of recent gender-inclusive devotionals from the White Estate, I have begun working on a new "gender-inclusive” non-offensive Church Hymnal.
Several of our beloved Christmas carols need a serious overhaul. Sorry guys (oops--I mean guys and gals) for carving up some good old favorites, but I’m sure you will agree with me that these urgent changes are needed. Here is a list of the offending carols I found, and why they should be either disposed of (chucked) or changed as soon as possible:
Hymn Number 119 Angels From the Realms of Glory
This is a beloved hymn, yes, but it must be chucked because it is very sexist and we cannot have such terminology in our hymns lest someone be offended. Verse two says "God with men is now residing." This is a huge offense to women because it gives the idea that God only comes down to reside with men and we might lose membership if we keep it in the hymnal. It needs to go— along with other heretical hymns in this list!
Hymn Number 120 There's a Song in the Air
This is a tough one. I really like how there is no reference to males in this song (except Baby Jesus). It speaks much of sweet virgin Mary as a mother. This really argues for keeping in the hymnal. However, we take offense at the phrase "while the beautiful sing." This phrase could make people in the church who do not feel beautiful to feel "body-shamed." They might feel ugly, and thus prevented from being able to sing, because only the beautiful can. So I would recommend changing it to "while the people all sing." I recommend changing this song instead of chucking it because it speaks highly of women and omits men. This one stays.
Hymn number 122 Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
This one really saddens me to have to be chucked, because I used to love it so much. But it is soooo ruined by the phrase in the second verse "Peace on earth, to men good will." Highly offensive. And then it is damaged beyond repair by the phrase in the third verse that says "Mild He lays His glory by--Born that MAN no more may die--Born to raise the SONS of earth--Born to give them (the sons) second birth".
This is intolerable, presenting the idea that only the male are to have peace & good will. It also makes it sound like women will die— but men won't— and it makes it sound like only the “sons of earth” are to be raised. Daughters are excluded. If we retain this hymn in the hymnal we will keep losing our young people and win very few souls in our modern world.
(This is another reason why we also need to chuck the King James Version and any other Bible version that says "Peace on earth. Good will to men", instead of saying "Good will to people.”)
Hymn number 125 Joy to the World
I started out reading verse one and was excited that we may be able to keep this positive-sounding upbeat hymn, but my hopes were crumbled when I came upon the second verse discovered “Let men their songs employ". This makes it sound like women can't sing praise to God. I guess this song must go as well.
Hymn number 125 In the Bleak Midwinter
This one is a bit of a disappointment to me since I love it so well, but we can rescue its one error easily enough. The first two verses are perfect. I guess Bethlehem really does not have bleak midwinter snow with frosty winds, but the imagery is pretty so we will let that slide.
I LOOOVE the 2nd verse which says "But His mother ONLY (meaning no patriarchal men around to rule women and stifle them) in her maiden bliss—worshiped the Beloved with a kiss" Yes! I just love that!! It rocks! Women "rock and rule" (I mean roll)!! (Though I guess since Jesus was born a male, this means a woman still was bowing down to a man. But Jesus had feminine properties too and He was just a baby, so we can let that slide for now.)
The part that ruins this beautiful hymn is the third verse "If I were a wise man--I would do my part." This makes it sound like women can't be wise and thus can't have a part. But since I love this song so much for its high feminine qualities, all we need to do is change the words "wise man" to "wise person" and add another syllable note and we can retain it.
Hymn number 115 O Come, O Come Immanuel
The first verse and chorus may offend people because it talks about ransoming "captive Israel" and that Messiah "Shall come to thee, O Israel." This leaves out other nations, and makes it seem like Israel is in captivity and not free. They might get offended if depicted as in bondage, and other nations might get offended if they think the song means Immanuel is only coming to Israel. We simply must be more sensitive!
Hymn number 118 We Three Kings
The last part of the chorus says "Born is the King of Israel" instead of "King of all peoples", so it should be chucked as well. And the fifth verse talks about "wise men three." This may offend women who want a female wise man to honor Christ along with the men. It is not fair that only men got to see Baby Jesus, or that only male kings got to come and were called "wise." Oh well, since Mary Magdalene was the first at the tomb at the resurrection we see that Jesus finally accepted women at the end of His life, so all is well. But this hymn still should be chucked for saying Jesus was born King of Israel, and for using non-inclusive language.
Hymn number 130 It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
This is another Christmas hymn which makes the egregious error of saying "Peace on the earth, good will to men--From heaven's all gracious King." Doesn't God want women to have peace and good will too? I am enraged by this! And why isn't there is a King to bless the earth and no Queen in heaven? The Father figure way is too patriarchal. It's too bad this song has this phrase because the rest of the song is so liberating. But it's gotta go, lest we lose members who judge us to be male-oriented.
Hymn number 131 Lo, How a Rose Ever Blooming
I got really excited over this one, since the word Rose has feminine meaning and this song applies it to Jesus, showing He/She was both male and female. I also LOOVE the second verse, which says: "With Mary we behold it--the virgin mother kind--To show God's love aright--she bore to them a Savior."
This is amazing to have a hymn that tells us that women are the ones who "show God's love aright."
This made my day! Mary is called "kind" and the leader in us beholding the rose. Mary is called a "tender stem" in the first verse. This hymn does away with male dominance and power. Yet it makes a huge mistake in the first verse when it says "Of Jesse's lineage coming--As men of old have sung." You mean to tell me that there were no women in the Old Testament who sung of a coming Redeemer? But since this song is so feminine, we need to keep it and change the words "men of old" to "People of old".
I don't know what to do about the phrase "from Jessie's lineage." This is a man's name who fathered David and the lineage should not be just accounted as from men. But maybe no one will notice and leave the church, because Jessie is a woman's name too and they may think that Jesus came from a woman named Jessie and that's fine with me!
In summary, I prefer the feminine name Christmas Carols over Christmas Hymns, because Carol is a female name, and the word Hymns sounds too much like the masculine "him"!
Kennan McGrath lives in Florida, and majored in both History and Religion at Andrews University.